Happy one-year anniversary, Peter Laviolette. And what a year it’s been.
Since inheriting a 13-11-1 club from John Stevens — in the midst of a skid that would drop them as low as 29th in the NHL — Laviolette steadily led his troops back from the depths to nearly the absolute heights.
Laviolette’s Flyers didn’t stop charging until Patrick Kane’s heartbreaking overtime goal in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals foiled their hopes for the franchise’s first championship since 1975.
Starting from scratch this season, the Flyers are back among the league’s elite at 17-7-4. Following yesterday’s 3-2 win over the Islanders, they are also tied for the most points (38).
His players credit a system which brings out their best, coupled with a fierce intensity that refuses to accept mediocrity.
“I always felt we had a great team,” said captain Mike Richards, who often becomes the coach’s messenger, “but some nights we don’t play with enough fire or consistency. Peter’s put in a system, which we really benefit from in big hockey games.”
Of course, Laviolette had a championship pedigree already, having guided Carolina to the 2006 Cup.
“I think he changed the mindset, which our team needed,” said Danny Briere. Before we were a defensive-minded team, playing the trap. Now, we’re a lot more aggressive.”
Not to mention closer.
“When he came in we were struggling and not really a team,” said Claude Giroux. “He found a way to get us closer, especially off the rink, which made a huge difference.”
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